Urban Animal Field Research: Whale Watching in Vancouver

One of the most exciting things about environmental history research is the opportunity to do field research. It’s fun to get away from the desk and get outdoors. I did just that this afternoon when I heard that a grey whale had wandered into False Creek. After running down to the seawall we were fortunate enough to catch this video of the whale spouting beneath the Cambie Street bridge on its way back out to English Bay:

You really don’t see something like this every day in Vancouver, but as Lani Russwurm’s recent post on Past Tense Vancouver reminds us, False Creek does have a history of peculiar aquatic visitors.


Beached grey whale at Sooke in April.

As it turns out, the grey whale that visited Vancouver this afternoon may be one of many distressed whales migrating northward. Several grey whales have beached and died along the coasts of Washington and Vancouver Island in the past month. As the grey whales migrate north, many struggle to find enough food to survive the journey and occasionally wander along the shores and inlets of the Northwest Coast in search of something to eat. Most of the beached grey whales discovered this past month died of starvation. One beached whale in West Seattle was found to have been feeding on human-made garbage.

This is troubling news given the presence of the grey whale in False Creek today. Late this evening there were reports that the whale had returned. Let’s hope the whale finds a food source soon so it can complete its northern migration.

Read more about the beached grey whales here:



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